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Hybrid Energy Systems Key To Future Of Renewable Energy

As the spread of renewable energy generation continues and countries expand to allocate more resources to increasing the overall percentage of renewable energy generation capacity, more stability will be required to ensure that such technologies like wind and solar aren’t as reliant upon specific weather conditions.

In line with this thinking, a new report has found that matching different forms of renewable energy and introducing more efficient storage technologies could be the silver bullet for increased reliance upon renewable energy.

Renewable energy has often been dismissed by opponents as being too variable for very high penetrations due to its reliance upon the sun shining or the wind blowing. These variability issues are especially troublesome when combined with old energy grids, unable to cope with such fluctuations.

The analysis, published in The Electricity Journal by researchers from Oregon State University, shows that much of the weather-reliant issues could be done away with by introducing enhanced energy storage technology and by developing what are called “hybrid” energy systems — energy systems which, in tandem with a smart grid, combine two forms of energy generation so one is able to cover the other.

“Wind energy is already pretty cost-competitive and solar energy is quickly getting there,” said Anna Kelly, a graduate student in the School of Public Policy at Oregon State University, and an energy policy analyst. “The key to greater use of these and other technologies is to match them in smart-grid, connected systems. This is already being done successfully in a number of countries and the approach could be expanded.”

With two-thirds of new US electricity capacity coming from wind in October, renewable energy generation is not likely to be so easily dismissed any more, which is why solutions such as these are increasingly important.

Night and Day

One example of how such a hybrid system would work is explained by Kelly:

For instance, the wind often blows more strongly at night in some regions, Kelly said, and solar technology can only produce energy during the day. By making more sophisticated use of that basic concept in a connected grid, and pairing it with more advanced forms of energy storage, the door could be opened for a much wider use of renewable energy systems, scientists say.

“This is more than just an idea, it’s a working reality in energy facilities around the world, in places like Spain, Morocco and China, as well as the US,” Kelly said. “Geothermal is being paired with solar; wind and solar with lithium-ion batteries; and wind and biodiesel with batteries. By helping to address the price issue, renewable energy is being produced in hybrid systems by real, private companies that are making real money.”

Advanced Energy Storage

Energy storage has been a hot topic for a long time, and we’ve covered it extensively here at CleanTechnica. One such advanced technique was highlighted by the researchers:

Electricity is being produced by efficient wind farms in Wyoming; transmitted to Utah where it’s being stored via compressed air in certain rock formations; and ultimately used to help power Los Angeles.

“There are still a number of obstacles to overcome,” said Joshua Merritt, a co-author on the report and also a graduate student in mechanical engineering and public policy at OSU. “Our transmission grids need major improvements so we can more easily produce energy and then send it to where it’s needed. There are some regulatory hurdles to overcome. And the public has to more readily accept energy systems like wind, wave or solar in practice, not just in theory.”

Related: Study Finds Wind-Solar Hybrid Power Plants Are Twice As Efficient

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